Perry White sat against the edge of his desk, numb with shock. The sharp ledge cut into his thighs, but he hardly noticed. In fact, a little pain gave him the grounding reality he wasn’t dreaming—something he sorely wished he could claim.
In the closed office with its shuttered blinds, Jimmy—standing next to the door—flinched and backed up into the wall as if the young man had been physically acosted.
That’s right, son. This is a punch to the gut.
“No!” Jimmy croaked. “Clark—Clark is. . . ?” The boy couldn’t finish.
Staring at a spot close to Perry’s feet, Lois nodded, her expression eerily vacant from emotion. “Yes,” she whispered.
The unspoken word hung in the air like an unwanted visitor no one wanted to acknowledge.
Perry watched Jimmy wrap arms around himself while shaking his head. His adam’s apple bobbed, and his eyes began to shine.
Perry’s heart throbbed and emotion welled, but as a trained editor and a father of one, he knew it was times like these where others needed a source of strength to grab onto.
Was it the editor in him to notice Lois’ lack of tears and her vacant expression as a glaring red flag? She was a tough woman, so perhaps she was trying to show strength to the team, but years ago, Clark had died once already. A mad scientist had brought the famous duo, Bonnie and Clyde, back to life and their gang had shot Clark in front of everyone. It was that same mad scientist who had been able to bring Clark back to life, but for those few days, Perry had witnessed Lois in despair. There had been grief in her eyes. And back then, she and Clark were only partners. Only friends.
But now. . .
The Lois Perry looked at now seemed to be a thousand miles away. If there was grief—and he was sure there was—it was as far away as her.
“Lois?” Perry asked gently.
It was a long time before she looked at him.
“Um. . .” Perry hesitated. He knew the question was going to be torture, but he had to know. Perhaps it would spark some emotion and let him know his star reporter—a woman he’d come to treat as if she were his own daughter—wasn’t too far gone. “Can you tell us more about the incident? It happened yesterday, but—”
“The police couldn’t tell me much,” Lois mumbled, her gaze traveling back to the spot near Perry’s feet. “A young woman phoned 911 to report a man on the side of the road who looked like he may have been hit by a car. When the ambulence arrived, Clark was”—Lois gulped—“he was already dead. His ID was on him, I was the emergency contact, so. . . so they called me in to the hospital to give a positive identity.”
“Could the doctors confirm Clark’s wounds were caused by a car?” Perry asked in a gentle voice.
Lois nodded. “Multiple broken ribs and base of his skull was smashed. They say he died on impact.”
Perry looked to Jimmy, the two of them exchanging expressions of shock and grief. Jimmy’s cheeks were damp with tears.
And Lois. . . she was still a thousand miles away with her vacant expression.
Her lack of emotion filled Perry with more fear than if she were hysterically crying. This cold, closed-off woman was far more concerning to look at.
Perry felt at a loss for how he could reach out. “Lois. . . honey,” he began, then stopped as those empty eyes gazed up at him.
A cold fist punched him in the gut. It felt like death was staring him in the face. So he did the only thing he could think of to do.
He walked over to Lois, pulled her off his couch where she’d been sitting, and threw his arms around her, drawing her close against him in a tight, fatherly hug.
Lois felt alarmingly cold.
He wanted to scold her and ask why she felt so cold, or ask Jimmy to get a blanket, but his throat had closed up on him, and all Perry could do was hold onto Lois as if life depended on it.
For all he knew, it did.
Lois’ body trembled in his arms, and slowly, so slowly, those arms reached around to hug him back, but he felt no shuddering in her torso that could give him any indication she had begun to let her grief show in the form of gasping, sobbing tears. He felt her chest rise and fall in shallow breaths.
Soon, Perry felt Jimmy’s arms wrap around the both of them. The boy’s breaths came in ragged gulps as the young man fought against the building emotion of grief. Perry supposed Jimmy was trying to hold back to show strength for Lois. Perhaps if someone broke down in the room crying, Lois would come back from the depths of wherever she had gone to.
He lost track of how long the three of them stood with arms wrapped around each other, but it felt like far too soon, Lois was pressing herself away from them. He and Jimmy released her, but Perry held onto her shoulders and shook her, forcing Lois to meet his gaze.
Lois, honey, where have you gone?
“You will not go through this alone, Lois,” he promised. “Me, Jimmy, the Planet. . . we are here for you. You got that?”
Slowly, Lois nodded. Was there a flicker of sadness there, or had he just imagined it?
He wished he could give her a blanket and lay her down on his sofa, but home was the best place for her to be, especially once the wall broke and her grief came.
But sending his reporter to an empty house. . .
“Jimmy,” Perry said with a little too much gruff in his voice, overcompensating for the emotion that threatened to erupt from his throat. “If you’re able to, take Lois home and stay with her. Keep her company. She shouldn’t be by herself right now.”
Jimmy nodded, wiping at his cheeks and sniffling. “You got it,” he said in a thick voice and put his arms around Lois.
The woman didn’t argue, didn’t fight, didn’t do anything. Her vacant expression returned, and she allowed Jimmy to steer her out of the office. When the door opened, several coworkers snapped their heads and stared in awkwardness as Jimmy walked in silence with Lois. Perry followed behind in a protective manner, and watched until the two left the newsroom on the elevator.
Then he hollered across the room.
“Emergency meeting, everyone! Conference room, five minutes.”
He needed the five minutes to gather the strength he’d need to alert the paper that a member of their team had died. This was going to be very long, tiring day.
Perry noticed up near the coffee machine was Jackson, who wrote obituaries for the paper. The Chief sighed and walked over to give the man the most painful assignment he’d ever given any of his staff.